‘Not too close, dear,’ Polgara warned. ‘Don’t burn yourself. How does a nice hot cup of tea sound?’
After Ce’Nedra had drunk her tea and soaked in a tub of steaming water for about a half-hour, she actually began to feel warm again. Then she dressed in a plain gown and returned to the kitchen to help feed the twins. Polgara’s children were a year old now, and they’d begun to walk – although not very well. They also seemed to have some difficulty managing their spoons, and quite a bit of their supper ended up on the floor. The twins had flaxen, curly hair, and they were absolutely adorable. Their vocabulary was very limited – at least in any language Ce’Nedra could understand. They talked to each other extensively in some strange tongue, however.
They’re speaking “twin”‘, Polgara explained. ‘It’s not uncommon. Each set of twins develops its own private language. Beldaran and I spoke to each other in “twin” until we were about five. It used to drive poor uncle Beldin wild.’
Ce’Nedra looked around. ‘Where are Garion and Durnik?’
‘Durnik’s made some more improvements,’ Polgara replied. ‘I’d imagine he’s showing them off. He’s added several rooms at the back of the cottage, so at least you and Garion won’t have to sleep in the loft.’ She carefully wiped the chin of one of the twins. ‘Messy person,’ she chided gently. The child giggled. ‘Now then, what’s this all about, Ce’Nedra? Why did you make this trip in the dead of winter?’
‘Have you read Belgarath’s story yet?’ Ce’Nedra asked.
‘Yes. It was characteristically long-winded, I thought.’
‘You won’t get any argument from me about that. How could he possibly have written that much down in under a year?’
‘Father has certain advantages, Ce’Nedra. If he’d actually had to write it, it’d probably have taken him much, much longer.’
‘Maybe that’s why he left so many things out.’
‘I don’t exactly follow you, dear.’ Polgara gently wiped the face of the second twin and then set them both down on the floor.
‘For someone who pretends to be a professional storyteller, he certainly did a third-rate job.’
‘He more or less covered everything that happened, I thought.’
‘There are some awfully large gaps in that story, Aunt Pol.’
‘Father is seven thousand years old, Ce’Nedra. In that long a time there were bound to be periods when nothing was happening.’
‘He didn’t go into anything that happened to you, though. He didn’t say very much about those years you spent at Vo Wacune or what you did in Gar og Nadrak or any of those other places. I want to know what you did.’
‘What on earth for?’
‘I want the whole story, Aunt Pol. He left so much out.’
‘You’re as bad as Garion was. He always used to badger my father for more details every time the Old Wolf told him a story.’ Polgara broke off abruptly. ‘Away from the fireplace!’ she said sharply to the twins.
They giggled, but they did as they were told. Ce’Nedra gathered that it was a game of sorts. ‘Anyway,’ she picked up the thread of her thought, ‘Belgarath sent some letters when he had those last few chapters delivered to Riva. The letter he sent to me is what gave me the idea of coming here to talk with you. First he accused us all of getting together and bullying him into writing the history. He said that he knew there were gaps in the story, but he suggested that you could fill them in.’
‘How typical,’ Polgara murmured. ‘My father’s an expert at starting things and then tricking others into finishing them for him. Well, this time he’s out of luck. Forget it, Ce’Nedra. I don’t pretend to be a storyteller, and I’ve got better things to do with my time.’
‘No buts, dear. Now, go call Garion and Durnik in for supper.’
Ce’Nedra was shrewd enough not to raise the issue again, but a way around Polgara’s refusal had already begun to form in her devious little mind.
‘Garion, dear,’ she said when she and her husband were in bed later that night in the warm and comfortable darkness.
‘You can reach out and talk to your grandfather, can’t you?’
‘I suppose so. Why?’
‘Wouldn’t you like to see him – and your grandmother? I mean, we’re this close anyway, and it’s not really very far from Belgarath’s tower to the cottage here, and they’d be terribly disappointed if we let this opportunity for a visit slip by, wouldn’t they?’
‘What are you up to, Ce’Nedra?’
‘Why must I always be “up to” something?’
‘You usually are.’
‘That’s not very nice, Garion. Isn’t it just possible that all I want is a family reunion?’
‘I’m sorry. Maybe I misjudged you.’
‘Well – actually, your Aunt Pol’s being a little stubborn about this. I’m going to need some help convincing her to write her story.’
‘Grandfather won’t help you. He already told you that in his letter.’
‘I’m not talking about help from him. I want to talk to Poledra. Aunt Pol will listen to her mother. Please, Garion.’ She said it in her most winsome and appealing tone.
‘All right. I’ll talk it over with Durnik and see what he thinks.’
‘Why don’t you let me talk with Durnik? I’m sure I can persuade him that it’s a good idea.’ She nuzzled at her husband’s neck affectionately. ‘I’m nice and warm now, Garion,’ she said invitingly.
‘Yes, I noticed that.’
‘Are you really very sleepy?’
‘Not that sleepy, dear,’ and he turned to embrace her.
This wouldn’t be terribly difficult, Ce’Nedra decided. She was an expert at getting her own way, and she was confident that she could get Garion and Durnik to agree with her plan. Poledra, on the other hand, might take a little more work.
Garion, as he usually did, slipped quietly out of bed before it was even light. The Rivan King had grown up on a farm, and farmers habitually rise early. Ce’Nedra decided that it might not be a bad idea to keep track of him for the next couple of days. A chance conversation between her husband and Durnik might disrupt her plan – Ce’Nedra deliberately avoided the word ‘scheme’. So she touched the fingertips of her right hand to Beldaran’s amulet and searched with her mind for Garion.